What I will say if you ask me to read your unpublished manuscript.


If you ask me politely, I will — regretfully and politely — say No.

If you just go ahead and send me your material, without even the simple courtesy of asking me before doing so, I will  also say No — but I will not bother being polite about it.

For the polite people:  I know it’s tempting, but please consider the fact that reading, evaluating, considering, and critiquing manuscripts is work.  I already have a job.  It’s writing! If I don’t do my job, it doesn’t get done.  Also, if I don’t do my job, my income suffers. Additionally, there are other aspects of my life that need time and attention. While I’m very flattered that you might regard me so highly that you’d want my input, please don’t put me in the position of disappointing you by refusing your request.  That would just make us both sad.

For the impolite people — hm.  Well, you puzzle me.  It’s hard for me to imagine how someone could just forward their stuff to a stranger without a even simple, “Hey, would you mind?” first.   But if you send me hard copy, I’ll either refuse delivery, or return it unopened, or shred it, unread; if you email it, I’ll delete it, also unread.

For a more extensive and much more entertaining treatment of the subject, check out John Scalzi’s blog post here.  While I am nowhere near as busy or successful (or well-paid!)  as Mr. Scalzi, most of  his general principles apply in my case, too.

There used to be a great book on professional etiquette for writers, but alas, it’s out of print.  Also, it’s out of date, being pre-internet and pre-email.  But if you find a copy, the ideas are certainly still applicable.

That said, back to Book 5 — which still seems to require an inordinate amount of wrestling to get it to behave…




12 Responses to “What I will say if you ask me to read your unpublished manuscript.”

  • Laura Bowen Says:

    Sending all the good thoughts your way, hoping the wrestling comes to a swift and successful conclusion.

  • Charlie Russel Says:

    I’m frankly astonished that anyone would think otherwise, but obviously this was prompted by someone actually asking or sending you their manuscript. They need to understand that we’re all here waiting for book #5 and we’d really like you to be able to focus on wrestling that into proper behaviour.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Charlie — You’re right; and it was someone of the impolite variety. We had exchanged emails on an unrelated matter. This was apparently interpreted as license to send me material to critique, despite our remaining strangers to each other. I brushed the person off, but it still rankles a bit!

  • Ben Says:

    Guess it works like spam. Send it to dozens of authors; maybe one of them is bored enough to take a look. Or something. Can’t imagine it works but then the Nigerian prince emails wouldn’t persist if they didn’t work either …

    Just makes little sense with how many writing groups and so on there are these days. If the internet is good for one thing then it’s sharing stuff …

  • Laura Says:

    There are plenty of people who are paid for manuscript critiques. That is their job, and they get paid a good amount of money for it. I cannot fathom asking someone I don’t know to read my writing and critique it for free. Writing circles, meetups, paying a professional to take a look at it…these are all options. I’m astonished at the temerity of people who send unsolicited works to strangers and ask for favors that take up time and energy. Please do keep on wrestling with book 5. We are all anxiously awaiting it!

    (Also, a gold plated cat sounds unappealing. Not very cuddly and would need to be polished.)

    • Rosemary Says:

      Laura —

      Yeah… the most annoying thing was the not even asking. I mean — test the waters first! Find out if this person is someone willing to take on the task beforehand.

      Well. I’m all done being grumpy now.

  • Michael Grosberg Says:

    I wonder if some tech wiz could write a word macro that would randomly add editing comments to documents, with strikeouts, notes, circled words, etc. Would serve them right to try to untangle hundreds of pages of meaningless “feedback”. Then at the very last page, “these comments were randomly generated, Jerk”.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Ouch! No, I’d never be quite that cruel!

      Plus, in some cases one must assume that the person literally might not know any better — say, if they were an actual child. Or they might have had bad advice from a person perceived as older and wiser, who supposedly knew more about how matters operate in the publishing world, but was actually quite mistaken, creating a sort of hand-me-down error.